Holland Village (or Holland V) was where much of my childhood youth was spent.
It was (and still is) a charming cluster of shops, eateries and snaking undulating roads.
My mother used to go there often with us kids in tow to buy groceries from the Cold Storage, and sometimes pass us a small coin to donate to the Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore or SPCA donation stand.
The Buona Vista Swimming Pool was right behind Holland V, where I spent my weekday afternoons swimming in pyjamas while pursuing the bronze, silver and then gold survival certificate in Primary School.
As I grew older, Holland V still looked pretty much the same. The second floor of Holland Road Shopping Centre was the favourite weekday haunt of me and my best friend in Secondary School.
We’d start off at Lim’s, looking through knick-knacks and other expensive stuff we couldn’t afford, move on to cheap clothes shops, goggle over the photos in muscle magazines at a bookshop, stop by the Neoprint machines at the corner, and skip the third floor which was dead. Thambi would be our final stop to buy a copy of Teenage magazine before we headed home.
On weekends, I’d meet another group of guys at BK (aka Burger King). BK was their favourite place because they could park their bikes outside and watch over them as we wolfed down Mushroom Swiss burgers and
gossip talk about the people we knew.
We loved going to the party supplies shop at the end of the first row, to buy the $2.50 mealworm snack and challenge each other to eat mealworms.
In 1999, multiplayer game Half-Life debuted in Singapore.
For quite a few months, my church mates spent their Sunday afternoons after church killing each other’s avatar at a LAN shop at one corner of Holland V, before adjourning to coo over cute hamsters at the nearby pet shop.
As more restaurants sprouted up, especially in Chip Bee Gardens, we found dining in Holland V increasingly expensive, even though some of us were already working part-time.
The food court and hawker centre that eventually opened provided some relatively affordable options, but by then most of us had moved our hangouts to Orchard (especially Cineleisure) to play laser and join up with larger gaming clans.
But we didn’t forget Holland V.
Toni & Guy opened a training school for aspiring hairdressers, and on certain days, trainee hairdressers would cut, wash and blow dry students’ hair for a really cheap price, so we could look great on the next day of school.
Sasa was the convenient beauty store where we sprayed ourselves with tester perfume to freshen up after school, before meeting our dates.
Breko became our favourite place to lounge on the sofa and share a baked potato with various toppings, especially after our CCAs ended. If we were feeling peckish, a milk bun from Provence down the road was our secret ingredient to making our day.
When we could afford it, we had dates at NYDC (cheesecake and milkshake), Haagen Dazs and Sushi Tei. Xiaolongbao at Crystal Jade Kitchen was also a group date favourite.
Wala Wala was the next big thing, and we would time our night dates when Jack and Rai were performing, cramming with many others into a second level bar just to listen to this duo’s songs.
2am:dessertbar wowed us with their inventive creations (where I had my virgin experience eating sticky date pudding) and we’d chat about the good ol’ days of student life drama.
Holland V finally got its own MRT station when the Circle Line opened, making it a lot more accessible.
As a hangout place, some parts of Holland V haven’t really changed much. Some shops have been there for decades, while others come and go.
The LAN shop and pet shop have gone, as have BK and NYDC. It’s just part and parcel of changing consumer tastes, lifestyles and expectations that Holland V takes in its stride.
But for me who grew up hanging out at Holland V way more than I should have been, this place has given me tons of memories that make up an important part of my life experience.